US President Joe Biden said during a trip to the occupied West Bank on Friday that Palestinians need to see a path towards statehood, even if hopes for a peace process with Israel remain bleak.
Biden’s visit to Bethlehem came ahead of a flight to Saudi Arabia, whose leaders on Friday changed aviation rules in an apparent gesture of openness towards Israel.
Riyadh paved the way for Israeli planes to use its airspace by announcing it was lifting restrictions on “all carriers”, a move welcomed by Biden as “historic”.
The president’s visit to the Saudi city of Jeddah will follow talks with Abbas, the latest high-level diplomatic meeting after those with the Israeli leadership on Thursday.
Biden reiterated his administration’s commitment to a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying there “must be a political horizon that the Palestinian people can actually see”.
“I know that the goal of the two states seems so far away,” he said in Bethlehem, alongside Abbas.
The Palestinian president said he was “taking steps” to improve the bilateral relationship and aimed to see the US consulate to Palestinians reopen in Jerusalem, which was shuttered by Trump.
“The key to peace begins with recognising the state of Palestine,” Abbas said.
With Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations moribund since 2014, the US delegation has been focusing on economic measures.
Biden announced an additional $200 million for the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees, which saw funding cut by the previous US president Donald Trump.
During a visit earlier on Friday to a hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Biden pledged a $100m aid package for medical institutions in the area.
But he made clear on Thursday he had no plans to reverse the controversial move by Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which infuriated Palestinians who see its eastern sector as the seat of their future state.
The US delegation was to also announce plans to roll out infrastructure for 4G internet across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank by the end of next year, fulfilling a longstanding aspiration among Palestinians.